Best & Worst 2009

This is totally off the top of my head. I know I’ll regret this as commentators come up with better ideas that I should have thought of but didn’t, but at least I’m getting the ball rolling, hmmm? Like that bill coming out of Washington B.C., you can improve on it later, right? No? You’re stuck with it? Gaaak!

BEST

Nanotechnology1: Nanotech is coming on strong
Throughout the decade, everybody told me "forget nano, watch bio." And indeed, biology is quickly becoming putty in our hands. (Biology as programmable code: good.) But as John Smart opined at the humanity plus summit, there have been amazing nanotech breakthroughs in 2009. (Matter as programmable code: better.) We covered some of them, and I’m sure we missed a few.

Another Nanotech Breakthrough

‘NanoPen’ may write new chapter in nanotechnology manufacturing

Industrial Nanotech Breakthrough?

How Close Are We To Real Nanotechnology?

Medical marijuana. Photo: huffingtonpost.com2: Cognitive Liberty is on the Rise (Yeah, I’m talkin’ about decriminalized mind altering drugs again)
For starters, we’ve got ravingly positive reports from what we might call "The Portugal Experiment," where they decriminalized all drugs.  Then we have the Czech Republic’s recent decriminalization of — essentially — plant drugs for personal use, an interesting approach that has been long advocated by Andrew Weil. And in the good old USA, which has long been the vanguard of hardass anti-drug politics, we’re seeing a trend towards leaving medical marijuana alone and even a growing trend toward legalization. That’s barely dipping the toe in the water in terms of solving the problems caused by prohibition. Imagine the positive effect on Mexico if we started growing and manufacturing our own product here, legally? Imagine the positive effect on Afghanistan if we started buying more of their product (and let’s not forget that Afghani hashish) legitimately.

Dollhouse. Photo credit: Courtesy of Miranda Penn Turin/FOX3: Dollhouse Rocks 2 Hour Episodes
Sure, we featured Eliza Dushku on the cover of our winter edition and ran a think piece by Erik Davis about the show… and then word came out that Fox was going to ditch the series. And yes, many critics found the first season less than completely compelling. But starting in December, Joss Whedon and company came out swinging hard with several serious, twistingly complex, bordering-on-P.K. Dickian 2 hour episodes that have many naysayers eating their words. Indeed, the theme seems to be moving ever closer to "YOU are the Doll" — the title of our Davis piece. Did Whedon read the cover story and push it in this direction? Will Rossum Corporation reprogram the entire human race? Can this show be saved? I try to be my best.

4: Obama Sets Our Stem Cells Free!
As always, it involved some compromise, but new stem cell policies have led to new availability. Another boost for regenerative medicine — grow your own body parts.

Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines Made Available

5: Transcendent Man Kinda Makes Ya Think
Those in the transhumanism community either love him or… like him but think he’s wrong… but either way, with the film Transcendent Man hitting the film festival circuit, Ray Kurzweil is getting some otherwise not clued in members of the intelligentsia to talk about the future in more interesting ways than… "Oh Shit! Our social security will run out in 2030."

WORST

Political Party. Photo: nolanchart.com1: This So-Called Economy
The whole thing: the "recession," the "national debts," the foreclosures, the finance/banker bailouts, the suffering caused by unemployment (and worse in poorer parts of the world), the bankruptcies… the paying of tribute to the people who lend  and gamble the money through "bailouts," which they then lend back to us with interest. To paraphrase an old at&t ad from the ’90s: "Did you ever feel like a serf in the middle ages? You will!" By the way, are there less resources, less products, less skill and creativity, less willingness to work (and play) and create value now than there was five or ten years ago? So what’s the problem?

2: The Trail of Broken Promises (Obama Administration)
I always purchase my hope with a healthy dose of skepticism, but one does — in fact — hope for the best.  But, as beat poet John Giorno once wailed, "EVERYBODY IS A COMPLETE DISAPPOINTMENT!" Rather than sharing my personal list of what has outraged me, I’ll quote from a David Sirota column calling out the cynicism behind the idea that sophisticates shouldn’t take candidate’s campaign promises at all seriously: "These ‘candidate versus president’ idioms are standard among Beltway elites who belong to what New York University’s Jay Rosen calls ‘The Church of the Savvy.’ Their catechism says that anyone demanding a president deliver on campaign promises is naive because, allegedly, there is an inherent difference between what a candidate can tell voters and what that candidate can support as president. Those rejecting this ‘savvy’ interpretation are therefore lambasted as petulant children who refuse to ‘take off their pajamas’ and ‘get dressed.’ (Full article here.)

Actually, in the spirit that campaign promises should not be taken seriously, perhaps it’s time for another R.U. Sirius candidacy in 2012. Here are my campaign promises:

1: I will clean up after the Mayan apocalypse
2: I will get everybody ready for The Singularity
3: I will stop whatever things you personally think is bad… NOW!

Photo: boingboing.net3: The Music Industry Empire Strikes Back In Europe
We saw more draconian action against sharing music, with Europe and particularly England, leading the pack. On November 20, Cory Doctorow reported on Boing Boing: "Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary… says he’s planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of." Cory’s full post.

Terminator4: Terminator Salvation
Oh but we had fun in advance of Terminator Salvation, publishing one web article after another about the rise of the robot soliders. And then… we saw the movie. Ouch!

Foolish Meatstack! Terminator Week Continues

5: Transhumanist v. Transhumanist
The left glove came off as tensions surfaced between the transhumanist left and the transhumanist libertarians. As a hybrid, I’m bemused — but then bemused is my middle name (That’s what the U stands for.) Hey, some of my best friends are (fill in the blanks). This awkward alliance (liberal and libertarian) has supplied most of the participants in many important scenes such as: the EFF, various anti-drug war groups, various civil liberties groups, various antiwar movements… and most importantly — every great party full of weirdo geeks you’ve ever attended. So argue away, but play nice. After all, those other assholes plan to be around for a quadrillion years too.

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